The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office John E. Goode Pre-Trial Detention Facility. [Andrew Pantazi]

A key national accrediting agency warned the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office three months ago that its medical care was deficient and placed its jail on probation in April, according to records obtained by The Tributary.

In an email to former Corrections Director Tammy Morris on May 10, a National Commission on Correctional Health Care representative wrote that the organization reviewed the accreditation status of the facility and voted to place it on probation during its April 30 meeting. 

A spokesperson for JSO confirmed on Wednesday night that the jail is still under probation.

The NCCHC is an accreditation agency that ensures jails are operating their medical services within constitutionally accepted standards. The Tributary first contacted the NCCHC about Jacksonville’s jail conditions on March 10. The agency has not responded to The Tributary’s request for comments.

The group said in the email that it will survey the jail again before Aug. 31 to make sure corrective action has been taken and improvement efforts are underway. The Sheriff’s Office said the next evaluation is scheduled for the last quarter of 2023. The email did not say why the group put the jail on probation. 

An email from the NCCHC to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office regarding the John E. Goode Pre-Trial Detention Facility’s probation status. [Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office records]

“Although the facility remains accredited, probation is a very serious matter,” the email read. “Failure to appropriately respond to the deficient areas in a timely manner could result in your facility’s loss of accreditation.”

The same day, Tamara Taylor, regional vice president for Armor Correctional Services – the company that ran the jail’s healthcare – wrote in an email to Morris that Armor “already started corrective action on the deficient areas.” 

An email showing Armor’s response to the probation status. [Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office records]

Whether a jail is accredited can come up during any litigation and losing accreditation could put the city more at risk if sued.

Andrew Bonderud, the attorney representing the family of a man who died after he didn’t get his prescriptions while in the jail, pointed to issues at the policy making level at the Sheriff’s Office.

The Tributary learned on Tuesday morning that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office ended its contract with Armor and signed a five-year $110 million contract with another for-profit, private company called NaphCare. That contract takes effect Sept. 1.

“I don’t expect it’s something that can be turned around overnight,” Bonderud said. “But the sheriff needs to understand the severity and depth of the absolute dysfunction at the jail, and hopefully, he does keep tabs on this new provider because if he doesn’t we can all expect things to get worse.”

The Tributary reported in May on the death of Dexter Barry, a 54-year-old recent heart transplant who begged police for his anti-rejection medication. He died days after his release from the jail.

That reporting led to an internal review of Barry’s death and public conversations about Armor’s role at the jail. 

The Tributary first asked Waters about Armor and his jail healthcare plans in August, when he was a candidate for sheriff. 

Since then, The Tributary has revealed that Armor hid, in violation of its contract and state law, its own criminal convictions related to medical treatment at another jail. Reporting also uncovered that deaths have tripled in the jail since health care became privatized in 2017

Waters said on Tuesday that he did a deep dive on NaphCare, and they came “highly recommended” by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. 

The Tributary found that NaphCare has a reputation for poor treatment of inmates that largely mirrors Armor’s. Like Armor, NaphCare has been sued hundreds of times in federal court. One of those lawsuits ended in a $3 million settlement for the family of a man who died in a Virginia jail in 2015. 

At a jail with NaphCare’s medical services last September, an Atlanta man was eaten alive by bed bugs.

Nichole Manna reports on the criminal justice system in Jacksonville. She has previously covered criminal justice at newspapers in Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, North Carolina and Tennessee, but is originally...